The most destructive natural element to wood and finishes is bright light, especially ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun.
Over time, any light will affect wood hues and finishes. To prove this, you need look no further than your dining room table top, which has had constant exposure to daylight, fluorescent light or incandescent light, and compare it to the table leafs which have been stored in a closet, under the bed, etc…
Light will bleach out the bare surface of certain woods such as walnut, change the hue of other woods, such as purpleheart and paduak, and darken certain woods, such as cherry, mahogany, red oak, white oak, poplar, pine and firs.
On finishes, strong UV light tends to dull the finish, making the underlying wood look bland, dry, and bleached. Light also causes a crazing or crackling effect on catalyzed finishes such as lacquer, and causes shellac to roughen up and look like an alligator’s back.
Claims of miraculous rejuvenation and “bringing the wood back to life” are widespread and range from the bizarre to the absurd. Run away from products and sale people that claim the ability to replace natural oils in wood or being able to moisturize the finish. It simply cannot be done.
The best way to care for furniture is to clean it well using a damp, soft cloth or shammy, and applying a furniture polish/dusting product of your choice. Most aerosol polishes/dusters last a few weeks, so they need to be applied often. Paste waxes last a long time and provide better protection, but are labor intensive to apply. If the finish is too far gone, it will need to be removed and reapplied.
If you have any questions, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next month: Making Sense of Furniture Care Products.
Also next month: A list of classes that will be available for Spring and Summer at Upscale Consignment.
Till then, Frank.